Nancy Manahan & Becky Bohan
Authors and Activists
Q and A
I just read the home funeral story on your website.  By law, don't you have to embalm a dead body?

No. In most states it is perfectly legal to keep your loved one's body at home before final disposition. If the death is expected, no invasive medical or mortuary procedures are required. In Minnesota, an unembalmed body can be kept at home for up to 72 hours. 

Embalming serves no public health purpose.  In fact, it can be harmful to morticians who are frequently exposed to toxic embalming chemicals. These toxins can eventually contaminate groundwater near cemetaries.

A home vigil/funeral gives family members the opportunity to participate in whatever way they choose, is  personal and intimate, and allows survivors, like Rosemarie's father, to grieve in the privacy of their home. Additionally, it costs a fraction of what mortuaries charge for even the simplest funeral. 

The best resource on the legal aspects of home funerals is Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson, Executive Director of the Funeral Ethics Organization. It is a state-by-state manual of funeral and burial law for consumers.

My friend has breast cancer. Would your book be a good gift for her?

We recommend that you read the book first and then, based on your knowledge of your friend and her situation, determine what would be appropriate to offer her. Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully may not be the best book for those just diagnosed with breast cancer, or who are in the midst of treatment, unless they are researching holistic approaches, in which case, Part One of the book and the Appendices could be very helpful. The whole book, however, could be useful for families, friends, and caregivers.

Once your friend has completed treatment, she may be very interested in Diane’s journey. When our friend Susan Sobelson was going through chemo, she didn’t want to read anything about cancer. Two years later, however, Susan found the book so compelling she couldn’t put it down. Another long-term breast cancer survivor, Mary Treacy O’Keefe, loved reading the book and gave us an endorsement for the back cover.

We look forward to hearing how others dealing with cancer respond to Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully. Anyone whose illness is terminal will find the book extremely helpful and consoling.

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